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Lean to Sweat Shop

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  • #49481

    Howe
    Participant

    I have been working with a company helping them become “lean” on and off for about four years.  Today I had a very odd experience and I am wondering if this is an anomoly or is it an early trend.  I was with a small group of operators and they all spoke of working in other companies that had gone “lean”.   Their experience  was of management not giving support to improve processes but challenging the “cells” to just produce more in less time by working harder and faster.  The image conveyed was that of a sweat shop.   They also spoke of the “cells” becoming tighter and tighter with very little space around which to work and that once at your station you were to stay until “tapped” out.  A lead would then step in and cover your break.
    Is this a true picture???  Please share, I am interested in hearing what others are seeing.  I am in the Northeast and those that I spoke with have been woking in the Northeast.
    Thanks.

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    #169153

    Warren
    Member

    It depends on whether you mean Lean as in TPS or the Lean contrived by someone who took a tour at Toyota City and kept in touch with someone at Tokyo University :-)

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    #169155

    Howe
    Participant

    That was not very helpful.  The deeper question  is, are we as practitioners of lean and or six sigma doing an injustice to operators because we do not see potential in the labor force?   Are we only looking at the labor pool as “labor”  ergo sweat shop?  Are we stopping at the “cell” and thinking our work is over and leaving the necessary daily improvement left undone?
    My thanks.

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    #169156

    Haugen
    Participant

    “Everyday, everybody” – if you are not giving the tools to the operators and letting them recognize and drive out waste with the support and assistance of management and coaches, then you are not really implementing lean. You are just doing projects.Big difference.

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    #169164

    GrayR
    Participant

    As mentioned above, there is a difference between what companies call ‘lean’ and TPS. I think it is unfortunate that Womack defined TPS as lean, because it has become very easy for managers to say they are ‘lean’, or they have ‘leaned out’ the workforce, when they really mean they have overworked employees. Some managers really believe that is what ‘lean’ means.
    As TPS, there are a couple controls that reduce the effects of improvement that you mention. First, the principles of TPS involve respect for the worker and developing work areas that improve worker ergonomics. Second, the concept of standard work and how it is developed ties increased productivity with better, rather than faster or harder, work methods.
    That said, TPS is highly focused on increasing productivity, and you will find that Toyota workers probably do work harder than their counterparts.  At Toyota plants I have visited, their new workers undergo two weeks of ‘physical conditioning’ before they work in the plant. And there is some initial high turnover because the pace of work is probably faster then they are used to . . . I guess that is why they call it ‘work’.

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    #169171

    Howe
    Participant

    Sometimes it seems we are splitting hairs over the nuances of a name, but I can see from what is developing in the work places that drawing the distinction between what is “lean”  and TPS is important.  Drawing the distinction between employers who are willing to understand the differnece between the two might be a first step.  Thank you very much for the thoughtful responses.

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    #169457

    RG
    Participant

    Having worked in two different Honda suppliers, I think that lean in the Japanese thought resembles the “sweat shop” mentality. They justify it in their own thoughts as the organization is more important than the individual. Workers in these two firms were only allowed to pursue improvement in their own environment (cell). It made for a very disciplined environment but one where innovation was limited to a very small sphere. I wonder if we are following the wrong path when we hold them up as an example.

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    #169458

    Jim T
    Participant

    We implemented Lean in a couple of areas over the past 2-3 years, and made some significant changes to many areas using a Lean Accelerator project last year.
    We actively sought the inputs of all the people that would be affected at every possible stage of the process. That way, the operators were engaged and ‘owned’ the changes we made. We pushed for significant change, but it is the people on the production floor that must own and live with the changes and if they aren’t engaged then the project is doomed to fail.
    I considered the Lean Accelerator a real success not only through the physical changes made to the work cells and facility, but in the cultures, mindsets and behaviors of all the personnel involved.

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    #169459

    Sinnicks
    Participant

    I have been working in a lean/TPS environment for years and one thing that I think people lose sight of is that lean or TPS is not about tools.  It is about culture.  Developing a culture in which people are effective problem solvers and have the ability to implement the solutions rapidly.  Yes, there are a lot of tools that can be used, but I have seen first hand where some organizations have implemented some of the lean/TPS tools.  They call themselves “lean” and when the results didn’t  meet their expectations, the organization then come down hard on their workers.  This situation sounds a lot like the organization that I used to work in.  My advice is to challenge the leadership to see what is truly their view and objective in implementing lean/TPS.  Is it to get more out of their workers or is it to create an organization that is a problem solving machine.

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    #169460

    Aardvark
    Participant

    The situation you described is not Lean, but not completely unheard of.  This unfortunately gives Lean a very bad reputation.
    While it is true that Lean strives to eliminate overburdens on employees (commonly called Waste), the program relies on heavy support by management. 
    Many times, when enough overburdens are removed, employees realize a benefit in reducing the work space in that it reduces walking (for example).  However, Lean Manufacturing is essentially removing unneeded material, supplies, etc from the work place, organizing the required materials in a meaningful manner, and developing a common,repeatable process.
    The judgement criteria for the decisions mentioned above are Safety, Quality, Delivery, then Cost.  Specifically in that order.  Do not chase cost as a priority……you will find that only creates superficial improvements.
    I hope this helps.

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    #169463

    Schuette
    Participant

    Marion,
    I’ve been in your shoes before.  Often Management wants to produce more in less time with the same or less people – but they don’t want to spend any money in doing so – this seems to be their definition of Lean.
    For the last 7 years, I’ve been working with many electronics companies in Japan (Sony, Fujitsu, etc.) spending about half my time in Japan and the other half here in the US.  I do not see the situation described by others (even in the plants producing automotive products).  These companies allow there lean teams to define their workspace for efficiency and “adequate” space – what I see is often more open space in the workcell than in the comparible US competitor.  The operators are also given the tools they identify they need – as long as they increase throughput and decrease scrap.  They combine Lean, Kaizen, 6S, etc all into a team effort.  Most of these Japanese companies are working 24/7 with scheduled down time for planned maintenance.  As long as the team commits to meeting the production schedule – management supports all suggestions from the team to improve yield and efficiency.  They seem to have adequate breaks.  One big difference I’ve expereienced is they have “cadence music” – the beat of the music controls your work.  I’ve caught myself working to the cadence – it’s quite catchy and makes very well engineered – it’s not a constant cadence – it starts off slow then speeds up slowly to a pre-determined pace, then begins to slow down just before break.
    Jim

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    #169538

    Howe
    Participant

    Thank you.  It is so basic and yet I realize how I have overlooked the obvious that indeed SAFETY should come first and from that let the rest fall into place.  It also can be a litmus test:  if a company balks at thinking safety first then the “lean” journey may indeed be nothing more than a housecleaning event to save the bottom line.
    Thanks for all the help.  I will incorporate SAFETY into my program much more vigorously. 

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    #169561

    Warren
    Member

    In our company Muda = waste, and Muri = unreasonableness, or overburden.Warren

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    #169571

    Aardvark
    Participant

    Sorry for the confusion.  First, many people try to translate Japanese into English.  Unfortunately, each language has conotations that do not fully translate.
    My purpose of choosing the word “overburden” was to distinguish that “waste” are not necessarily created by employees.  Waste are commonly created by overburdens created by policies, systems, or traditions.  Based on the original question, I felt as if that was important to create the possibility that succesful Lean implementation will require changing actions of people and habits of leadership (overburden).
    Again sorry to create confusion.  Hope this helps.
     

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    #169572

    Severino
    Participant

    How dare you take minutes out of your valuable work time to create this post!  Get back into your 3×3 cubicle immediately and get to work developing our company fitness program.  Those damn lean cells are too big, but we can’t shrink them till our overweight american workforce shrinks with it.  We have to shrink these cells fast because the muda of our muda walks takes too much time away from “work” time. 
    I want a control chart for every employees weight on my desk first thing in the morning and send a memo to the cafteria that they are only allowed to serve one scoop of healthy nutricious gruel per employee.  How can we say we are truly “Lean” if our workers are so fat? 
    It has also come to my attention that there is a growing concern about safety in our facility.  I am in full support of any safety initiatives provided that they do not take away from value-added “work” time.  You may begin by putting a bandaid at each workstation (be sure to outline it in tape and put a label on it).  Additionally, let every employee know that I maintain an open door policy and they can come speak to me immediately if they have any concerns… provided they are tapped on the shoulder by their lead first. 
    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m having my secretary for lunc…. I mean I’m having lunch with my secretary.  Stop staring and get back to work!

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    #169578

    Warren
    Member

    Aardvark,No need to apologise … I just wanted to share our company’s information with you.The reason we beleive the definition of Muri is so important is because some people here believe takt times are there to make people sweat more with the fat guy smoking a Cuban at the end of the line, whacking up the tachometer.In our interpretation, we use takt times to protect workers against having to cheat, take short cuts, or suffer burn-out to meet unreasonable ‘marketing’ demands.I always ask … what qualifications are necessary to be unreasonable? Where would someone obtain a degrees in: I want it all, I want it now, I want it free. Rather than to plan a project properly, acquire the necessary resources, and motivate staff to give 100% commitment.Warren

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    #169610

    Rahul Deshmukh
    Participant

    Marion,
    From your explanation it say it loud that the company management have totally missed on the ” lean” part, if the small group of operators are telling the truth.
    If the cell design is according to lean it is never tight ( Visually, Ergonomically). Probably they just kept the name ” CELL” but forgot the meaning of it.
    To answer your question YES it is a true picture. Companies implement lean and all of a sudden their product demand goes high, they forget Kanban , 5S everything and start the old system over again and the problem is management lets them do it. 
    I am in Nortwest
    Thank You.Rahul Deshmukh (CSSBB)

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